It’s been almost a year since I closed the book on my daily blog about parenting and working through a scary, deadly pandemic. My blog might have stopped, but of course COVID didn’t. Like most comic book movie properties, it just kept getting rebooted, recast and rehashed into ever longer and lamer versions.
But I’m not here to talk about COVID today. I’m here to talk about another deadly pandemic that keeps ripping us apart and and providing us with fresh horrors on a regular basis. Like COVID, this pandemic also tends to separated us into bitter camps of those who want to do something about it and those who want to pretend it isn’t a thing.
And like COVID, this other pandemic is nothing short of impossible to explain to our kids.
I first found out about the events in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday afternoon, I was in Boise attending meeting for work. The news came across my phone, and my heart sank. I thought of my kids back home in school, and I was a few states away and couldn’t even run to hug them. But I talked to them that afternoon, knew they were safe, and just counted the minutes until I could be back home with them.
I got back home Wednesday night, and Thursday was the kids’ last day of school. Amelia was having a big party, Henry was having his kindergarten graduation, and then we all were going to go out for lunch and head up to Aspen for a super fun weekend. We’ve been looking forward to it for ages.
That morning, I drove the kids to school and I think had at least partially blocked out all the angst and emotions for a little while. I dropped Amelia off first, saying an excited “have fun, I love you!” to her as she ran into school.
Then I went to drop Henry off, and was in the drop off line at his school. As I was waiting, I watched the buzz of activity of parents hugging their kids and sending them off to their last day. This is a day with long traditions of being full of joy and fun. I have so many memories of excellent last days of school, making memories with teachers and friends.
And then I looked up and saw that all of this was happening in the literal shadow of a flag flying at half staff.
For whatever reason, that image drove through me like a freight train. I started to tear up, and when I really looked at all the parents on the scene, they were lingering extra long and there was a pall on many of their faces as they sent their little elementary students into that building. I saw others looking at that flag, and even taking pictures of it, as it hung there flaccid and mournful.
I put my best face on for Henry, watched every step he took to that school, and lost it the minute he was out of sight.
I know that Erin and I are not the only parents feeling the gut wrenching impact of this latest murder spree in Texas. I don’t want to call it a school shooting or a mass shooting, because frankly those are sanitized terms. This was a monstrous act of carnage.
First and foremost, my soul absolutely breaks for the parents and families who lost their children, and for the children who did survive but had to endure that unspeakable horror and loss. There aren’t words for that kind of grief and trauma, and I honestly can’t begin to comprehend what they are going through.
Next on the list is the fear that we parents all must now live with, because we live in a society that accepts the mass murder of children in schools as the necessary trade off to satisfy a small population of gun fetishists that believe even the slightest curbs on access to weapons that literally tear human bodies apart is way too much of a cross to bear.
And I can jump right from there to anger, because I’m fed up with it. I hate having to worry every day about the safety of my kids, and I’m tired that after DECADES of this happening on an ever more frequent and horrific scale, we’ve just decided that’s the way it’s gotta’ be.
I’m a fan of the old Universal horror movies, and particularly love Frankenstein. In the movie, the village is pretty upset about this monster running around scaring everyone. For much of the movie there is some hand wringing and the occasional scream. But when Frankenstein’s monster kills a CHILD, that’s when the pitchforks and torches come out and the monster gets burned in a windmill.
That was one child harmed by one monster. According the Washington Post, since the Columbine shooting in 1999, more than 311,000 children have been exposed to gunfire in schools from countless monsters.
311,000. Imagine how angry those villagers would have been. Imagine how angry we should be.
I’m sure many parents out there feel the anger, the pain, the fear and also the absolute feeling of hopelessness that this just never, ever, ever, ever, ever changes. I hear you, because I feel the same way. And part of the reason I wanted to say something here was because I feel like I did with COVID. This was something that in no way should have been a political issue, but totally became a political issue.
I grew up in a rural community with plenty of guns around. Many of my relatives were and are hunters. The conversation around guns wasn’t always this nuts. Yes, there was always the belief that people should be able to have the right to modest firearms for sport or protection, but this phenomenon that anyone, anywhere should be able to buy a Rambo-style mass murder machine with as little hassle as possible is pretty new.
We all hear the statistic over and over again that like 90 percent of the country agrees with basic background checks, red flag laws that keep deadly weapons out of the hands of known criminals and mentally ill individuals, and limits on high capacity magazines. Those are frankly pretty easy things to agree on, and really don’t cause anyone any undo grief. Yet because the handful that don’t agree with that are so loud and make so much profit off this, here we are.
I urge everyone to not give in to hopelessness on this, because we have to change this. We have to. We can’t have our kids growing up in killing fields and parents worried that any day’s drop off might be our last. There are three things about this particular moment that particularly impacted me, and I think should impact and motivate all of us.
1.) Guns are now officiallly the leading cause of injury related death in children 1-18. That is bonkers. There is very little that shocks me. I lived across the street from Dennis Rodman for a year. I have seen and heard a lot of things. But the fact that this is an actual fact blew my mind. What also blew my mind was this data was published A MONTH BEFORE THIS SHOOTING and it did not crack the news cycle. That is a sign of a deep, deep sickness and acceptance of this horrific phenomenon, and that itself has to change. We can’t accept this because it isn’t acceptable.
2.) The firearms being used by mass shooters are so powerful, they literally shred the bodies of victims beyond recognition. When parents have to submit to DNA tests to identify what’s left of their child, I think it’s safe to say the device responsible for that carnage needs some regulation. There is no sane explanation of why anyone needs to have a weapon with that power, and worse, can just grab one easily if they get annoyed with someone. And why in gods name any civilian requires a high capacity magazine for any purpose is also beyond me. Look, if you have some rare medical condition that requires some kind of IV drip of bullets and the high capacity magazine is the only way to go, fine, get your doctor’s prescription, go through months of pre-approvals and appeals like we have to do with anything medically related, and then submit to the checks, licensing and registration. But honestly, I’m doubting there is any logical need for anything like that except for convenient mass murder.
3.) For all the arguments about armed guards and tighter security and the elusive “good guy with a gun,” we now have very clear evidence of what a farcical argument that is. In the past few weeks we’ve seen one good guy with a gun just mowed down and killed himself, and now we also have multiple cases of police essentially saying, “Yeah, that weapon is too powerful for us to engage. Peace out!” Again, if we are talking about weapons that are too deadly to be faced by trained, heavily armed law enforcement, why are we letting random teenagers buy them, again? For all the cries of blue lives matter, shouldn’t we not allow weapons that that put even the people who are supposed to protect us into severe risk?
I’m not smart enough to know exactly what the next steps are, but there have to be next steps. We can’t just buy into this ridiculous hypnosis that we’re powerless to do anything about this, or buy the garbage that the solutions are arming teachers or, my personal favorite, doors!
Yes, the new hip suggestion is that school buildings have a single point of entry. I can tell you as a guy who actually worked in construction and design industry (and specifically the door industry for a few years0 AND has spent a great deal of time in building code meetings in my career, yeah, it’s pretty important for overall building safety to have multiple points of ingress and egress. Which is why code, you know, requires it. I know that is probably regulatory overreach, but I am a fan of codes that allow building occupants to live and structures not to collapse. I’m not sure solving the shooting problem by trapping kids in burning buildings with no points of escape is the greatest idea.
It’s this kind of thing that underlines the utter lunacy of the whole construct that’s been built around this issue. That apologists for open firearm access just keep coming up with ever crazier solutions to a simple issue boggles my mind. It would be like if you had office managers everywhere saying, “Man we really have a problem with all the damage being caused by people lighting off fireworks in the office.”
“Well, probably you shouldn’t light fireworks in the office.”
“What if we hired some extra people with nets and bats to try to knock down the fireworks as they’re flying around.”
“Um, what about just not having fireworks in the office?”
“That doesn’t sound right. What if we cut holes in roof of the building to allow the allow the fireworks to escape?”
Again, we are the only country on earth with this problem. The only one. And for those who say more guns is the answer, we’ve gone from 300 million to 400 million guns in the U.S. since Sandy Hook, so clearly we must live in the most peaceful, kid-murder-free place on earth, right? Not so much.
The answer is obvious, we need to put basic, logical limitations on the purchase of firearms and ammunition. That is a start. And to those who say that people who want to kill will do it anyway, yes, good point. I guess we shouldn’t have any laws on anything because people will break them anyway. I think theft of personal items should also be legal because, hey people are going to steal stuff anyway, so if someone makes off with your grill, that’s just the price of freedom.
For all those lame arguments, I also know the scientific law of the path of least resistance, and the fact that people are, at their core, lazy. I guarantee that if many of these mass shooters had to jump through a lot of hoops and red tape to get their handheld howitzer, they might have either been picked up by law enforcement or just become more inclined to say to hell with it and go get a taco instead.
Let’s not give up. Let’s not shuffle our feet, shrug and let a minority of Americans continue to make so many of us parents live each day in pointless anxiety, and make our kids have to fear going to school. Being a parent and being a kid are hard enough. We can’t let this be the way.
I am thankful that I got to watch my kids come home after their last day of school. Henry and Amelia are the world to Erin and me, and every day with them is a gift. So many parents have had that gift stolen from them. For us and for them, we need to do everything we can to stop it from happening again.